At the time, I was living with my parents in Ohio. I had graduated with honors from the University of Pennsylvania in 1998, but I didn’t really know what I wanted to do with my life, so I decided to, as many such undecided people do, go to law school.
I was kind of not sure where I should go and what I should do; I could have gone to NYU and probably have become a Neutral Ground Demonic Attorney like Brook North, Eric Kesselman, and Rob Hahn before me. Or if I had gotten into Penn, I could have just pretended that I was still a senior or whatever, and just hung out with my same friends, who were all a year younger than I was.
However I forgot I had the LSAT one Saturday, on account of being confused about a PTQ date (they were both a Saturday). I didn’t do any LSAT prep and because I missed the first one, I only had one left to go. I had always done well on standardized tests, so it didn’t occur to me to do any prep with a program like Bell Curves (http://bellcurves.com) … But if I had, I probably would have swung like a 98 or 99%, which is consistent with every other standardized test I have ever taken in my life.
My advisor told me I could get into whatever program I wanted with a percentile score of 88%, so I really didn’t think that I needed to do prep. Where was http://bellcurves.com when I needed them?
So I was radically unprepared for the LSAT, which is an unusually specialized standardized test, and I scored a… wait for it… 86%. I subsequently didn’t get into any of the [highly competitive] schools I applied for, except the one where my dad was a professor (MBN / is).
Ultimately I topdecked a scholarship to law school, and decided to go in Cleveland, Ohio.
As you can see where my priorities were at age 22.
Anyway, that year I routinely won PTQs in various states and was just coming off a win in Detroit, MI the previous weekend, which was probably the only reason I was still alive.
Speaking frankly for a moment, I have talked a bit recently about this concept of enthusiasm. I am in some ways a chameleon who can get along with every kind of person but one (people who disagree with me AND are also stupid; I have no problems with people who disagree with me who are smart); however I just wasn’t in a good situation that year.
I was distant from almost all of my friends.
I played Magic like twice a week, but not often with anyone who I was that close with… I just traveled to faraway local stores for tournaments.
I did spend a lot of time in the Cleveland Museum of Art (which is actually an excellent art museum, and that is coming from a New Yorker who attends museums easily 20 times per year); but mostly I went home and ate three-pound bags of M&Ms and hung out with my mom, watching re-runs of The X-Files.
I was an erratic law student. Awesome or awful, depending on how much I personally identified with the subject. Property? Conspiracies? Acquiring stuff? A. Torts? Lamers and losers complaining about stuff and passing off their misfortunes to whoever happened to be standing in the room when something bad happened to them? C+ (or something… No recollection, actually). Writing? A. You get it.
So I never studied-studied, which is pretty consistent with how I have always approached school.
My dad taught me how to get an A in every class with objective answers, so I just used his method when I was not being too lazy (sadly I was too lazy a good percentage of the time); and never acquired less than an A- using this method.
I separately developed my own technique to get an A in every class with subjective criteria; remembered to use it for my Property final but somehow forgot to use it for my Torts final (I spit you not). Probably just lazy and / or completely disengaged from the idea of becoming an attorney.
I can’t think of any time in my life that I was less enthusiastic about my everyday than 1998-1999. I was basically enthusiastic about going to the movies (I saw literally every movie at the gigantic Cineplex in my parents’ neighborhood that year, up to and sadly including I Still Know What You Did Last Summer, which almost ruined me for movies before being rescued by Shakespeare in Love). 1998-1999 was some kind of year to watch literally every movie. There was Titanic (which I saw with the girl who told me to pick up and go to Chicago), and Rounders and Epidsode One (both of which I saw with an ex-boyfriend of hers).
And then there was April 1, 1999.
The new movie that I hadn’t seen was The Matrix.
I somehow hadn’t seen The Matrix yet – probably off winning a PTQ in another state. I decided to make it the cap on what was going to be a long day.
Now remember when I said that I was an erratic student?
I had like a huge paper due and a presentation the same day, but I had been busy testing for the Pro Tour over Apprentice and the academic obligations slipped my mind (I tested approximately 50 hours per week for Pro Tour New York 1999, once I qualified, despite being a full-time law student). If you peel back the point in time we were in, I had also just published a little article you may have heard of, “Who’s the Beatdown?”.
So I stayed up writing the entire previous night, but I knew I had to survive through the entire day to make my final, which was the last period of the day. So my solution was to drink coffee.
I know some of you think you have drunk coffee. However I doubt strenuously you ever had an April 1, 1999. I drank three pots of coffee that day. I was alert, I finished my paper, made it through the entire day, and felt absolutely bonzer the entire time!
And my reward at the end of the day…
… Was sold out.
This was The Matrix. Of course other people wanted to go.
The only available movie I hadn’t seen yet was Ten Things I Hate About You.
I absolutely loved it!
Ten Things I Hate About You featured the yet-to-be-discovered Heath Ledger and Julia Styles, a future multiple Emmy winner from The West Wing, and a Neutral Ground regular who would years later get to play opposite Zooey Deschanel. It was the whimsical retelling of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew, but with a charming cover of “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You”.
On three pots of coffee it was among the best movies I had ever seen (and remains one of my Top 10 favorite movies of all time).
How to Grow Taller: Actually, there is very little in today’s adventure that can help you grow taller. Shorter, sure (drink coffee)… More flexible… Now we are talking.
I really wanted to see The Matrix, but I couldn’t. I could have just bailed, but ended up seeing an unanticipated movie I ended up loving.
How to Grow Darker: Spill coffee all over yourself? Really… three pots.
April 1, 1999 was so not-dark it is almost un-possible to view it with a darkling eye. Like I said, I was riding high from a PTQ win, hopped up on caffeine, and ultimately plopped in front of a heartwarming, hilarious, and star-studded movie event.
How to Get More Handsome: Live.
I said earlier in this post that winning PTQs was basically the only reason I was still alive at that point.
I was so consumed by apathy at my everyday life (I was really not loving law school) that I just had no interest in… Living? It turns out things get better. Lots better. It turns out that life is full of amazing opportunities and that you just have to open your eyes (maybe after a few pots of coffee) and look around.
The chief crime of most sub-optimal introverts is that their perspectives are too limited. Was life boring in 1999? Sure. Especially if I wanted to focus on something I didn’t enjoy, watching re-runs (and movies I for the most part didn’t like), and eating candy. But life was so much more, in so many more places. Life is boring, sure… But also exciting and sexy, engaging and ingenious. I have come to realize that the negative portions of life are a tiny minority of our potential experiences… But sure, if you only want to focus on one tiny part of life, it is certainly going to look glum.
You might as well say that life is all-joy, or all pain, that the government is entirely corrupt, or that we really can trust some of these politicians we elect. Every one of those statements is equally true… Depending on where you put your focus.
Equally true… or not.
Aftermath: For some years, I told everyone that April 1, 1999 was the best day of my life. I still can’t think about it without cracking a smile, to be honest.
But in hindsight, writing and reviewing these seven days from younger years, I find that the so-called best day of my life doesn’t hold a candle to 02/02/02, the births of either of my children, or that one surprise Ani DiFranco concert with John Shuler (later in 1999).
Probably that title — for I would guess it was apt when I so-Christened the day — was a product, itself, from a limited perspective.
Still, it will always have a special place for me.
You have probably already guessed that I spent quite a bit of effort on this series of blog posts.
This episode in particular I wrote and re-wrote several times.
I have come to the conclusion that August 1994 might be considered impossibly egomaniacal (if delicious) and cannot actually be committed to ink (digital or otherwise).
You know how you can punch your best friend in the arm and say “I’m going to kill you,” when he goof-grabs or takes the wrong turn, and you both have a laugh… But if you write “I’m going to kill you” in an email it might be taken completely the wrong way and have the HR rep come a callin’?
That is why I decided not to write down August 1994.
If you want to find out what happened, you have to listen to it:
PS @MyntyFresh on Twitter sez you might not be able to listen to the above on Google Chrome; you can definitely right-click download it, though… I think you can click-and-listen in other browsers (which I have done in many a Safari). Sorry for any confusion (if there was any).
It would take a tremendous amount of triangulation of old credit card receipts from the pre-digital age, or at least poring through my parents’ scrapbooks in deepest darkest Cleveland (and an essentially zero-EV endeavor at that) to determine a particular day for this one, so we will have to just work with a month, which was August; and a year, which was 1989.
My family was on vacation in Bar Harbor, Maine, and I decided one day to go climbing on some mountain trail which allegedly didn’t require any particular equipment or expertise, despite ultimately giving you the first look at dawn in North America on account of being a combination of maximally Eastward and maximally tall (or something).
So “not requiring any climbing equipment” meant to the thirteen-year-old me that I could run it in a pair of gray Sebagos deck shoes. I remember that pair of shoes like no other pair my entire life. I always wanted a pair of Sebagos (which were the hip kind at my Catholic school, where you couldn’t wear sneakers day-to-day) but my parents always bought me the cheap off-brand version from like Payless. We weren’t poor or anything; in fact both of my parents are award-winning and / or pioneering physicians (which means that at least up until this year, I have been a constant disappointment in all non-grandchildren-producing endeavors)… But they weren’t hip to buying non-off-brand leather (?) boat shoes for their grade schoolers.
Anyway, there was a pair of not-popular gray Sebagos IN MY SIZE at a hole-in-the-wall shoe store where the local Al Bundy had been a 1970s Penthouse model (complete with mullet and porn stache). Thirteen-year-old michaelj begged his mom for the $14 Sebagos, and proceeded to wear them always, with or without socks, everywhere… apparently including mountain climbing.
artist’s interpretation of the deadly shoe
So in case you haven’t been paying attention, we are talking about an overweight, nearsighted, thirteen-year-old in tread-less boat shoes… Climbing the tallest smooth rock on the East Coast of North America, jutting over the coast of Maine during a wet morning at the end of the summer.
At some point in the expedition, I realized I was halfway across a flat expanse of boulder that was simply too wide for me to bridge. I hugged the side of its sheer face with my entire body; with every crevice of the fingerprints of my increasingly sweaty hands; as I could feel myself inching down it, the first tumble of an inevitable avalanche of human doom. I looked down between my legs, ending in those poorly-chosen gray Sebagos, and saw nothing but jagged rocks, ragged evergreens, destiny, and death.
I am going to die.
I am thirteen years old, and I am going to die.
My life didn’t flash before my eyes or anything. It was just serene. Serene oblivion… And I was okay with it.
And then, before I could even finish being okay with it; I felt my dad’s hand around my wrist, and he yanked me back onto the path.
Unsurprisingly, we headed back down the mountain, before reaching The Precipice.
How to Grow Taller: Live. Ya ain’t getting any bigger fallin’ down no mountains.
How to Grow Darker: It was actually comparatively sunny for Maine that summer; you could go to the beach (albeit a rocky beach relative to, say, Pro Tour Honolulu or even any random weekend in Florida or Long Island).
How to Get More Handsome: There is basically nothing more unattractive than fear.
Girls can smell fear. That’s why they don’t like you.
I was talking to BDM once about how this girl I liked in high school went out with this ridiculous, no-shower, skater pothead. If he had been in another crowd, he would have been a thug. He got bad grades, I couldn’t see any horizon for him, I don’t think he had his own car or anything… I just didn’t understand it. Was a black leather coat and packet of Marlboro Reds really so fetching?
BDM didn’t know the boy, but he could speculate.
“You know, when you are fumbling around with a girl, not knowing what you are doing?”
I mean sure, everyone knows. I am 35 and that is basically still my level of skills.
“Do you think girls like that?”
I mean obviously not. But you know…
“You know what?”
Nothin. I guess.
But there is one thing I can say about that dude. He weren’t scared. No sir.
By the time I had hit my one good dating year (2000-2001, and it actually lasted less than one year), I had finally realized how to harness the power of fearlessness, in at least this one regard.
For years, for all the bullying I endured (man, 1992 was tough); all the disappointments (like that time I cried myself to sleep in 1994 after my off-key audition with “The Ballad of Sweeney Todd”); the bait-and-switches (I literally spent 1998 out-living a highly in-demand girl’s boyfriends – a girl I then intended to marry – until she called me the day of my kid sister’s high school graduation – and said “I already paid for my apartment in Chicago all summer; but we had a fight. I’m not going to have any money, and I don’t know what I want to do, but I know finally I want to be with you. Come pick me up.”
I didn’t know what to do… but my mommy asked me if I was crazy and why I wasn’t already gassing up the Mighty Saturn and getting maps together. What are you waiting for? You ALREDY HAVE an invitation? Within one hour she called me back, told me they had made up, and they were going to try to make it work. And to be fair, her rent was paid up for the whole summer. I married someone else [awesome]).
Magical Aftermath: Fear gets you absolutely nowhere.
The biggest fear I see and think of on a regular basis is around mulligans.
A few years ago, GerryT posted a comment on this here blog about what he thinks about every single game of grinding, and what he thinks about when evaluating an opening hand; it literally changed my life. GerryT is so awesome.
At US Nationals last year, I mulled to four against an opponent with three Lightning Bolts… In his opening hand. I had to win the match to stay alive going into Day Two. Got there! His first play was Crystal Ball. My first play was Manic Vandal. It didn’t get any better for him after that, as I showed him how come first pick Foresee was so good in that format.
People still ask me about my Edison Open Series match against Lewis Laskin in Edison (which I lost / spoilers).
I won Game One on the third turn but had a series of terrible hands in the second… I ended up settling on three cards. I would mull to three every time given that situation. I couldn’t win the game with my seven, six, five, or four card hands. My mull to three was a goldfish win on turn three or four! If Lewis didn’t have so much resistance – and obviously he did, no lack of respect there – I would have just killed him. What if he was a no Force of Will deck like Zoo or Goblins?
Man, that would have been a story!
But you know what? I am proud of both the mull to four and the mull to three (though more proud of the mull to four, though I probably shouldn’t be), not based on winning or losing (though see the three, above)… But because I made the fearless – and gosh darn it, right – decisions in both cases. Other players would have balked, but they wouldn’t have been right. In the four, I won; in the three, I had the cards to win when the seven, six, five, and four didn’t (Lewis just had the cards to stop me… two or three times over, actually). You have to put yourself in the best position you can to winj; and fear, like tilt, bad deck decisions, and lack of sleep will leech that from you, no matter how many Jaces are in your deck.
Do you know how it feels to go from willingly living your life on the basis of the packaging of a plastic, Japanese import superhero that turns into a Volkswagen Beetle (a stretch to begin with)… and then find out that’s not even what it says?
A man is moments.
Better, maybe, to say: a man is the sum total of a bunch of different moments; days, decisions.
We either make, or fail to make, important choices on an almost constant basis. Turn left, or turn right? Vote left, or vote right? Move in with all my chips, or hide under a soggy cardboard box in a dank alleyway, while life is passing me by?
Strong traits for success in life unsurprisingly translate into strong traits for a Magic player. As I have gotten older, I have started to take a longer, essentially passionless, look at how I have spent my time, the decisions I’ve made, and tried to contextualize them in terms of not just my everyday, but my favorite hobby.
Who can you make happy?
What is it you do that makes other people unhappy?
Why do people continue to make such low EV decisions (in Magic and in life)?
How can you avoid being a loser?
How do we know who is winning (#WINNING)?
Aside on Charlie Sheen It is superficially easy to point at Charlie Sheen and say that he is a drug-addicted lunatic. Superfically. Easy. Both easy (come on! everyone is doing it!), and superficial (I don’t think that is a particularly accurate or useful way to look at the lord of #TIGERBLOOD. I mean, I did mention (@-mention) to him that #WARLOCK means “oath-breaker” and what he really wants to be is maybe a conjurer or prestidigitator if he is too cool to be a wizard or magician… But I didn’t get any reply.
That said – and this might color your perceptions of YT for all time – I can see where Sheen is coming from, or at least where his frustrations are coming from. I mean obviously I am nowhere near the catalysts that put the President’s prince on the road he is on today (who the hell bad-mouths his employer in a public forum? And in the way he did? … Plus I have essentially no experience with drugs); but I actually think he did a brilliant job turning a mainstream media disaster into a social media opportunity.
Sheen has embraced all different kinds of social media tools with enthusiasm and furor, re-written the language of an ever-increasing base of fans, and translated that popularity into a ton of sold-out IRL shows. From that standpoint, I don’t know that a reasonable student of the game can do much but stand up and clap. He’s like a less hot, less satisfying, less pleasant Lady Gaga.
On the other hand, Charlie has opened up the kimono on a variety of things that are issues for people who have any amount of fame or influence. Trolls… haters… Jealous wannabes; crowds and crowds of lamers and losers who provide no value (or probably revenue) to anyone. The difference is that he has chosen to actually, and loudly, confront on that front… Versus a Madonna who sulks about them quietly while pretending they don’t exist, or a Gaga who obsessively controls the conversation by revealing just enough that she can keep detractors at bay (or at least distracted).
I mean I am anti-drugs, anti-anti-Semitism, and pro-giving customers what they actually want… But from a self-realization (at least to the exclusion of self-destruction) standpoint… I think Charlie has gotten a bit of a bad rap.
Generalizations are pretty much never accurate and always lazy (other than this statement, obviously… as well as any qualifying ones… I mean, oh never mind).
Anyway, following are seven memorable decision points from my life – the birth of a lifelong philosophy, what it means to fall off a mountain, a reinvention, a first date, a comedy of errors, how to get over a layoff… and the best day ever). Some days were flawed, some successful, all of them ultimately etched in my memory, forever. Because, more and more, I find that modeling success – and failure – can give us shortcuts to success (and avoiding failure) in everything we do, each and every one of these has taught me a little bit (or a lot-bit) about all those things that matter in life: Being taller, being darker, being more handsome… and maybe, just maybe, becoming better at Magic: The Gathering (and all that entails).
I. March 15, 1987
I turned 11.
From about age 8 to at least this point in my life, my favorite was Transformers. I was a bit disappointed, in fact, come 1999 when I was first living in New York and I bought a VHS copy of The Return of Optimus Prime at the now-defunct Virgin Megastore in Union Square and… it sucked.
Anyway, there was a new version of Bumblebee (side note – Bumblebee is my daughter Bella’s favorite Transformer) called Goldbug. Basically in the Generation One cartoon universe Bumblebee had been badly damaged but got, I dunno, a new coat of metallic paint and was re-Christened Goldbug.
So for my birthday, amongst other loot, I received a Goldbug.
Now I don’t know how familiar you are with Generation One Transformers toys, but they all came with these little cutout cards on the back of their packaging that told you their job (Cliff Jumper and Sideswipe were Warriors, so-and-so was a Scout, Ravage was a Savage Miser, Rumble and Frenzy were I can only assume Court Jesters); and I read Goldbug’s.
My recollection was that Goldbug didn’t care what anyone else thought of him; he just went his own way. Especially going through what I was going through emotionally at the time (I met precious few ethnic kids my own age until high school; I had essentially no friends who were anything but Jewish or Roman Catholic until college; on the first day of first grade in a tiny Appalachian backwater my mother sent me [i.e. the only yellow and / or little brown kid] to school not with a backpack BUT A BAMBOO BRIEFCASE), this seemed like a pretty good way to live your life.
So that became – in tiny print on the back of a plastic toy I got for my 11th birthday – the template by which I have tried to live my life.
Granted, I have failed on countless individual occasions. Who doesn’t seek conformity at some point? But throughout high school, I was thought of by my teachers as “a non-conformist, but in a good way” and it was almost a point of pride the last week of high school when one of the most popular boys (who had at one point “gone out” with a girl I carried a torch for, for more than four years) asked me why we had grown distant over those four years of high school. I didn’t know, I had never meant to hurt him (if I had), but something about the situation felt if not good, satisfying.
How to Grow Taller: Come on, I was 11. I was going to get taller.
How to Grow Darker: Pretty clearly there is a tension here; there’s a line you don’t want to cross that might be analogous to an ethical line. For example I sometimes say that I have one regret, total, in my career; and that it is in 2008, when I broke Facebook the first time, I could have personally invested $1,000 (which I had handy) and made $750,000 (a pretty good return), or radically accelerated the same earnings with a paltry $30,000 (which I didn’t have handy). I consulted everyone I knew from Tom Martell (who was flabbergasted such returns could even exist, until verified by Josh Ravitz, who was working with me at the time) to Jon Becker (not just one of my best friends, but my son’s godfather as well as my tax attorney). “Generously” I had more than one Magic big timer stepping up and ready to back me (unsurprising). But it was ultimately Josh who stopped me. He said it might be the right thing to do from one standpoint (personal gain), but that I would be crossing an ethical line that I couldn’t un-cross, and he was right. Either you stab your employer in the eye for a few thousand dollars, or you use the skills you learned on the job to do the job, which is to arb up millions that you don’t actually get to enjoy. Josh is an amazing big picture thinker and pointed out I could eventually make a lot of money without doing something I would personally regret, but I would probably have to get out of the situation I was in, in order to do that.
So I basically boiled over inside but never ran the Facebook topdeck; and within one year left the only job I ever held where I can say I had essentially unlimited resources, and everyone did everything I asked yesterday…
So why was it a regret?
BECAUSE I WOULD HAVE THREE QUARTERS OF A MILLION DOLLARS RIGHT NOW IF I HAD CROSSED THE FLICKING ETHICAL LINE.
But I didn’t (thanks Josh).
Of course when I taught the next hire how to break Facebook, shady other VP immediately approached him to do the exact same kind of conflict-of-interest-side-deal (which I didn’t know about for years). Unfortunately everyone knows about the Facebook now, and traffic costs more than 4x what I was paying in 2008; plus consumers are harder to move, due to being used to being bombarded with intrusive messages. So 2008 is never going to happen again; but hopefully I can figure out a way to make my $750,000 some other way (thanks Josh). Thoughts on Magic articles?
Bringing it back to Goldbug, you don’t want to cross over the line between not caring what other people think about you, and not caring about other people at all (which makes you a sociopath). That’s tricky; you don’t want to get “darker” on this.
How to Get More Handsome: Dude. THANK GOD I didn’t have to figure this out by myself.
Aftermath: After 20+ years of holding the memory espoused by a plastic toy’s likely off-canon packaging as the baseline of my life philosophy, I decided to see if I could research the actual text of Goldbug’s player rewards card (or whatever) so I could include it in the life-hacking collection of awesome sauce that is my upcoming book; luckily there were some scans on eBay:
Click to see the mis-remembered mis-read in all its glory.
“Realizes what others think of him isn’t nearly as important as what he thinks of himself.”
WHAT THE!?! RASSIN’ FRASSIN’!?!
So… Apparently that isn’t what it says at all.
Do you know how it feels to go from willingly living your life on the basis of the packaging of a plastic, Japanese import superhero that turns into a Volkswagen Beetle (a stretch to begin with)… and then find out that’s not even what it says?
So the 2011 World Championships — the last “real” World Championships — is going to be upon us in just a few hours.
As is typical behavior, a bunch of us misers got together on Twitter for #WorldsDraft2011
Paul Rietzl – Pro Tour Champion, writer of the bestest tournament report in 10 years
Tom Martell – TrollSlayer
Osyp Lebedowicz – Pro Tour Champion emeritus, Latin Dance Champion, and creator of the television show Seinfeld; noted liar
Phil Napoli – finalist in last weekend’s PTQ; basically the only adult I know who can spike a PTQ regularly, actually. All around good man.
Yours Truly – Champion of many a PT Draft (no other credentials)
Being in fifth position is kind of horrible in this draft. Paul has a huge leg up as we were not playing the “LSV is banned” rule; so of course he was going to take first pick LSV.
Tom took the predictable second-pick PVDDR pick; I took Juza over PVDDR in a similar position in last year’s Worlds Draft, and despite PV making Top 4 (and Juza not making Top 8 ) I was able to win that one. In the same spot I would have probably taken Jon Finkel way out of position [more on that later].
Osyp took PoY leader Owen Turtenwald, Phil took the aforementioned Juza, and left me with the wheel.
In wheel position I was planning to take Jon Finkel and Martin Juza, but of course Phil had just taken Juza.
I went with Shouta Yasooka for my wheel pick. In hindsight this was only an okay pick; I could see taking Neeman, Watanabe, or Wrapter in that spot easily (I took Wrapter second pick in last year’s draft and he was a pivotal Top 16).
Phil took Shuuhei Nakamura, Osyp took a mighty Jeremy Neeman, Tom got Watanabe, and Paul finished out the second round with CawBlade PT Champion Ben Stark (a fine choice).
Paul wheeled Brian Kibler, Tom went with the first fellow drafter by taking Paul, Osyp took Wrapter (probably the second- or third-best pick of the draft), Phil took Patrick Chapin (completing the New Jersey one-two punch of taking my next two intended picks), and I finished off with Anton Jonsson.
Here is the secret of PT Draft. Well, the second part of the secret, anyway. The first part is to never take a player you are not willing to cheer for (same as in real life). The other one is to take the players you want to take, even if you are seemingly out of position. Like last time I took second-pick Wrapter and some people were like WTF was that pick… If I hadn’t taken him there, I would certainly have lost him to Chapin. While I wanted Wrapter, Chapin, and Juza, the only two players I absolutely unconditionally wanted for my draft were Finkel and Anton (I intended to take Anton last). So I just took him third there, whatever.
For the second half of my wheel pick, I went with David Ochoa. Ocho is the US National Finalist, giving him a little extra skin in the game; plus he is on the right team, etc.
Phil followed up with Gau (superb pick… a force auto-pick I made for the Nagoya draft, helping me lock that one up); Osyp went with PT Philadelphia poisoner Sam Black, Tom picked himself, and Paul stole a late-pick Gabriel Nassif. I think you can see the superb value that many of my competitors bogarted on this round. Tom picking Tom ensured he would lead all #WorldsDraft2011 participants in number of drafters drafted… and Tom is a great pick regardless!
Paul thought he had the wheel, and took Lukas Jaklovsky; I tried to stop the draft at this point, but Tom said “did you really want Kenny Oberg” and left to go pick up Gabriel Nassif at the train station. Osyp said to just continue the draft and took Lucas Blohon. Phil took last year’s overall first pick Brad Nelson, and I got who I wanted for last pick, anyway: MTGO superstud Reid Duke. I playtested a little with Reid for this one and he beat me like a drum. He was also one of the most impressive players I have sat across the table from this year. I was very happy to nab Reid with my last pick.
Paul Rietzl: Luis Scott-Vargas, Ben Stark, Brian Kibler, Gabriel Nassif, Lukas Jaklovsky
Tom Martell: PVDDR, Yuya Watanabe, Paul Rietzl, Tom Martell, Kenny Oberg
Osyp Lebedowicz: Owen Turtenwald, Jeremy Neeman, Josh Utter-Leyton, Sam Black, Lucas Blohon
Phil Napoli: Martin Juza, Shuuhei Nakamura, Patrick Chapin, Gaudenis Vidugiris, Brad Nelson
Michael J Flores: Jon Finkel, Shouta Yasooka, Anton Jonsson, David Ochoa, Reid Duke
Paul made great use of his first pick, and has an overall superb team of LSV headlining a squad of 80% past and future HoF’ers.
Tom’s team is just gross. He could easily blow this one out of the water; probably has three guys in the Top 16 or better.
Osyp’s team is pretty good; originally I thought he had the worst team, but now I think Phil does. Sorry bros!
I am obv going to win (as usual). [actually, I think tonight’s draft went rough for YT]
You might not know that I am a thirty-five year old marketing executive living in New York, NY; that is, an adult, a husband, and a father of two. Or that I graduated with honors from a top 5 university, own my own condominium in Manhattan, and have designed numerous Pro Tour Top 8 and National- and World Championship-winning Magic: The Gathering deck lists. Additionally, I co-authored a book on Google that the former CEO of Apple said “should be on every marketer’s bookshelf.”
But for the purposes of this blog post I am an unapologetic, more-or-less lifelong, rasslin’ fan.
This post is about my Top 10 favorite memories as a wrestling fan.
I actually worked pretty hard on this list, not just in terms of picking moments that really stand out to me over a fandom that I have embraced since at least the age of eight or so, but poring over hours of video to pick representative moments, if not the exact ones that made me continue to love sports entertainment well into my third decade; so I hope that the rasslin’ fans (and potential rasslin’ fans) among my readership enjoy it.
A couple of things…
Not all of these are “matches” … Most great rasslin’ is great matches but, some of these are and some of these aren’t.
Not a single Hulk Hogan memory in the bunch! The Hulkster was certainly top of my list at some point (as he was for most young American wrestling fans at some point in their lives), I was watching live when the NWO was formed (the greatest angle in the history of sports entertainment)… But whatever. I guess I never really cared enough.
10. Chyna’s Heel Turn
I spent most of the year 1998-1999 separated from most of my friends, living in Ohio in my parents’ house. My friends were mostly a year or two younger and were still in college. The ironic thing was that I was watching the Montreal Screwjob and my roommates thought I was crazy (and then they became rasslin’ fans the year I left and we would bond about it over the phone).
The year I was at home, the WWF (which is what it was called then) was in a bit of turmoil. Shawn Michaels — then the promotion’s biggest star — was gone (and his faction, DX was bereft of their leader). Competitor WCW had every big star.
And yet Vinnie Mac made some kind of lemonade out of those lemons. He elevated HHH and The Rock to main event status, with both of them (along with Mick Foley and especially Stone Cold Steve Austin) forging legends and becoming some of the most memorable superstars in the history of sports entertainment.
DX somehow became the most popular face faction on TV, and waged weekly wars with corporate management. HHH was a good guy and I loved him for the first time ever (and probably the only time I ever did or will). The Rock was the bad guy, and deliciously so. In this segment, there is a betrayal in DX, which happened at the end of a free match — and a heck of one — between The Rock and HHH.
Trust me, it was shocking at the time 🙂
9. The Final Monday Nitro – Ric Flair in a shirt
Most of the 1990s (in the world of wrestling) involved the Monday Night Wars, Ted Turner’s Monday Nitro fighting with Vince McMahon’s Monday Night Raw.
Turner had Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair, and at one point or another, both The Ultimate Warrior and “Rowdy” Roddy Piper. In addition he had amazing developing talent from Chris Benoit to Rey Mysterio (both eventual WWE Champions later in their careers). On top of that, Turner developed Bill Goldberg and repeatedly bought WWF top talent like Kevin Nash (Diesel), Scott Hall (Razor Ramon), and Brett Hart, decimating Vince’s ranks. Turner used some of that former WWF talent (starting with Hogan, Hall, and Nash) to create the NWO, the uncontested greatest angle in the history of the wrestling business.
Unsurprisingly, WCW hammered the WWF in ratings for years.
But Vince was scrappy.
He was resourceful.
He used former mid-card talent and made superstars out of them.
He marketed well, essentially did everything right, and eventually managed to kill WCW after the AOL / Turner merger (AOL probably wondered why billionaire Ted Turner had a black hole of millions and millions on the books and “I like rasslin'” probably wasn’t good enough for them).
This clip is the last match on the last Monday Nitro.
It features Ric Flair (one of the Top 3 wrestlers of all time, and at that point a fourteen-time World Champion) against Sting. Sting was the one and only elite Tier One superstar of wrestling that never worked in the WWF or WWE. He was NWA / WCW forever, and currently wrestles in TNA / Impact Wrestling. Vinnie Mac has made ovations to Sting, but he never bit (probably never will).
My memories of the specifics are kind of vague on this one. Like most people (explaining the ultimate fate of WCW and Monday Nitro), I wasn’t watching much at this point, despite being absolutely religious about Raw.
You can view the clip and see Sting has a stupid haircut and is looking a little out of shape. I doubt Flair had been in the ring as a wrestler in some time… He probably looks awful under all that… Part of what makes it memorable to me is Flair’s wearing a tee shirt in the match.
Despite both guys being past their primes (BTW they are both headlining today still, ten years later), I think they put on a good show. The match has many of the characteristic trappings of a great Flair match. Flair flops and he sells Sting’s offense like it is gun shots. Flair gets the advantage via a low blow (he is “the dirtiest player in the game” after all).
Uncharacteristically, the two hug it out at the end of the battle (Sting and Flair had been heated rivals most of their careers). The announcer says “thank you Steve Borden” at 10:30 (Steve Borden is Sting’s real name). They didn’t know what the future held, and they all acted like it was their last day… Putting on a good show and showing camaraderie and appreciation.
I couldn’t help but think this, watching the last Nitro live; and either Flair or Sting said it in his last interview: If everyone had put on shows like they did in the last ep, it wouldn’t be their last ep.
8. Dean Malenko on Monday Nitro
I spent a couple of hours trying to find an appropriate Dean Malenko clip.
What you need to know about why I care about Dean Malenko:
Dean is maybe the greatest in-ring mat wrestler, ever. I think I like him better for that than Daniel Bryan, Brett Hart, etc.
Dean Malenko will plant you on a power bomb. I mean you are a plant. As in buried in the earth. I remember noticing him for the first time on a Monday Nitro in I think that show’s first or second season and being just “wow.”
Malenko throws a drop kick that looks like it will actually hurt you. Most guys do a drop kick and it looks like it will hurt them just as much, flopping face-first onto the mat, etc. Dean hits you right in the kneecap at high speed. Dude is just unbelievable.
Like I said I couldn’t find an appropriate showcase match, so instead, Dean and a young Rey Mysterio (this match was like fifteen years ago!)… Enjoy.
Watch out for: a proto-619 at 2:30 (Rey was not using the 619 as his finisher then)
7. The Beginning of The Rockers
I am so glad I was able to dig up this match, featuring two of my favorite wrestlers of all time (Arn Anderson and Shawn Michaels).
I was a lifelong Rockers fan the moment I saw this match (my first exposure to them), and Shawn was my favorite wrestler from this moment on. This was the height of Hulkamania and Ultimate Warrior and all that, but I didn’t care. I told my friends how great I thought Shawn / the Rockers were and most of them thought I was crazy (“I guess he’s good, but those guys never win the title”).
Pretty good match… Glad they were wrong 🙂
The match is pretty awesome, but I am actually glad whoever uploaded it left in the commercials (how great are they)?
Double superkicks at about 3:04 (later in Shawn’s career this would have qualified as a decapitation)
3:44 sick corner escape by Shawn
3:49 — five seconds later, a literal Frankensteiner (mise just run that as a transition move)
10:53 Arn Anderson sticks his signature spine buster. I’ve always thought Arn was an underrated in-ring competitor… great move set for a tough guy.
Match is just mono-unreal, and like twenty years old.
Oh yeah, the commentator is a former governor of the state of Minnesota 🙂
6. Survivor Series 1992 (first main event)
Survivor Series 1992 was the first PPV I actually attended.
Originally Ric Flair was the WWF Champion but had inexplicably dropped the title to Brett Hart in a non-televised match in Canada (I know… What the!?!). So we got a double main event with Brett Hart defending against Shawn Michaels in the last match, and a different main event that saw the return of Mr. Perfect alongside “Macho Man” Randy Savage against Flair and newcomer Razor Ramon (Ramon, real name Scott Hall would eventually be a pivotal member of the NWO).
I didn’t really see the good guys winning this one. Wrestling at the time was booked as gods v. mortals, and Flair (like Sting, Hogan, Andre the Giant, etc.) was a god. Perfect was a great executor (like Shawn Michaels) and a career bad guy (and coming off a bad injury).
This one was pleasantly surprising to me, again at my first PPV 🙂
What made it memorable: About 12:49 Razor goes for the Razor’s Edge (his finisher); Perfect goes nutso, reversing it and hitting a pair of gorgeous PerfectPlexes.
5. Survivor Series 1992 (final main event)
Like I said, at this point, Shawn was already my favorite wrestler (this was close to ten years before his legitimate “push” as a World Championship caliber draw), and I was shocked that he was in the main event (I mean I was shocked Brett Hart was the Champion, too)… But I didn’t think Shawn was going to win.
Some pleasant memories:
2:24 – Shawn hits the superkick; years later this would be christened Sweet Chin Music and graduate to his finisher, but at this stage it was just a random holder move from his Rockers days.
2:40 – Cut throat signal… After the superkick, Shawn signals he is going for his finisher…
3:04 – Tear drop suplex; this move never got over with the fans as a legit finisher. I remember it being Shawn’s “big move” from my WWF Super Nintendo game at the time, of course.
4:00 (actually a bad memory) – Shawn goes up to the second rope for a “high risk maneuver” after missing the pinfall with the tear drop suplex. I was probably the only kid in the audience screaming “don’t do it, Shawn” … Of course he gets caught with his hand in the cookie jar and the good guy won.
Still, a fine match, and a nice preview to Shawn’s eventual dominance some many years later 🙂
This isn’t actually one of my favorite memories (I had never seen it before doing the research for this blog post), but it is a nice reversal to clean our visual / mental palettes of that Brett Hart-catch.
Shawn nails Shelton Benjamin coming off the ropes with Sweet Chin Music here… It is positively “Cammy” from Street Fighter!
4. The End of The Rockers
My sister (huge crush on good guy version of Shawn Michaels at the time) probably still has nightmares about his heel turn.
But going “bad guy” Shawn, divorcing himself of longtime Rockers tag team partner Marty Jannetty, was the only way he was ever going to be World Champion. Took a while, but he is today considered by the WWE locker room to be the #1 wrestler of all time… And he would never have gotten there as a tag team specialist.
3. Ricky Steamboat and Dustin Rhodes over The Enforcers
This match is impossible to find on YouTube. They actually have almost every other segment from the event it was from, but excised the one match. Speculation is that it is featured on Ricky Steamboat’s commemorative WWE DVD… Oh well.
Basically Dustin Rhodes (son of “American Dream” Dusty Rhodes) is challenging Arn Anderson and Larry Zbyszko for the tag team titles. Dustin’s partner is injured and he has a mystery partner. It turns out to be Ricky Steamboat.
Match is awesome and the good guys steal the titles.
Why this was awesome:
Ricky Steamboat was a mid-carder in the WWF, blowing fire as his gimmick but not really doing anything important. WCW brought him back in a funky dragon mask and made it seem like the earth had split. Steamboat at his height was a god in the ring, BTW… Would have been an all-time great if he wanted to.
Arn Anderson was basically the perfect bad guy. Villains like the Undertaker are cartoon characters. You know, even as a kid, that he isn’t a dead man with superpowers. If you cross Arn, he will break your arm by slamming it in a car door. Once a promoter didn’t send out who Arn wanted to fight, and he said “you are about to see the closest thing to attempted murder in the history of television” … and you believed him.
Overall, Dustin was lame; Ricky was so great he made all of us cheer for the future GoldDust!
2. Chris Benoit & Chris Jericho over HHH and Stone Cold Steve Austin
This is literally my favorite match of all time.
It is perfect from top to bottom. I remember seeing it live and thinking “wow, Chris and Chris really want to win this one!”
At the time, Stone Cold Steve Austin was the biggest star in the history of wrestling. HHH was rising, and marrying into the right family.
This match happened.
They billed the Tag Team Titles like they mattered. Two amazing workers — Benoit and Jericho — were able to go over two of the biggest stars ever. It wasn’t just one of the greatest matches of all time, but represented something much bigger than a match or even a title change.
In case you don’t know this, Austin’s knees at this point were heavily braced. He still got around pretty well if you ask me.
HHH took a savage injury that kept him out of the ring for like a year… And finished the match (you can see him start to limp about 11:58… and by 12:30 he is locked in Jericho’s Boston Crab variation on the announce table [the most painful experience of HHH’s career if I recall].
Again, the match is perfect from top to bottom, and I loved it upon the re-watch.
1. The La Parka Diamond Cutter
I am pretty sure this was the most surprising moment in the history of wrestling.
I think you can probably tell that I did / do / will forever.
Culmination of a lot of the tech I have been working on for Standard. No Sylvan Caryatids is a nod to Patrick Chapin. Nothing but two-for-ones. Wish I could have gotten this in the hands of a good pilot for the GP but just finished it.
I had a day off this weekend from shooting Supernatural, and I was walking around downtown Vancouver on Saturday, sampling all the artisan coffee I could get my throat around. At one point I saw a pair of guys walking towards me wearing gamer shirts. Black short-sleeved, one Halo and one Call of…